Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas is confident that Fernando Torres has finally put his troubles behind him after the Spain striker scored twice in a 5-0 demolition of Genk and was just a world class save away from bagging a hat-trick.
Torres had gone 875 minutes without scoring in the Champions League, a miserable run that dated back to April 2009 when he scored for Liverpool against Chelsea.
But he finally got back on track with two clinical finishes against the woeful Belgian champions at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
It took the much-maligned £50 million forward’s goal tally to four in his last four appearances and Villas-Boas believes Torres is at last playing with the belief that characterised his time at Liverpool.
“It’s important for players to feel confident, and he’s feeling confident in his abilities,” Villas-Boas said.
“It was never a question of him (not being at his best form). He was always on form.”
Torres had missed Chelsea’s last two Premier League matches as he served a suspension following his red card against Swansea and the Blues scored eight goals without him.
He will also be sidelined for Sunday’s trip to QPR due to the ban, so it was essential to remind Villas-Boas of his qualities.
It was emphatically mission accomplished on that front but Villas-Boas insists it doesn’t matter whether it is Torres or anyone else who scores as long as Chelsea win.
“It’s about the team’s performance. Our goals have been spread out in various ways in our squad,” he said.
“The strikers are nearer to goal and get in good positions – Fernando did that today very well – but we look at the collective performance.
“I’m pretty pleased with the way the team played. It would have been a long period off (if Torres hadn’t played), though we are able to choose from the best up front.
“The choice fell with Fernando today and he responded pretty well, as have all the strikers who have been used.”
Chelsea’s victory, which also featured Raul Meireles’ first goal for the club and strikes from Branislav Ivanovic and Salomon Kalou, equalled their biggest in the competition and put them in control of Group E.
They have seven points from three games and Villas-Boas knows they could clinch a place in the last 16 with a win in their next match against Genk, providing Bayer Leverkusen defeat Valencia.
“This group could become very tight depending on what happens in Leverkusen with Valencia. The only way we can avoid surprises is to try and get three points in Genk,” he said.
“That won’t be easy, coming as it does after the Arsenal game. We have to show the right motivation over there.
“At the moment we are on course and meeting our objectives. We are trying to get the best result possible, get the qualification and go as far as possible in the competition.”
After a slow start to Villas-Boas’s reign, Chelsea are starting to show the smooth-passing style favoured by the former Porto coach.
Genk coach Mario Been admitted his side had been totally out-classed but he stopped short of heralding Chelsea as potential European champions.
“They have a lot of quality. They can change a lot of things because they have so much quality on the bench but Barcelona and Real Madrid are also great teams,” Been said.
Been was more concerned with how he would revive his players in time for Chelsea’s visit to Belgium.
“It is possible the size of defeat could affect us, especially because we are missing a lot of players and are not in the best shape but we have to learn from it and stick together,” he said.